Weekend Lineup Presented By Del Mar Ship & Win: Preakness The Epicenter Of Attention

Even if the connections of Grade 1 Kentucky Derby 80-1 longshot winner Rich Strike hadn’t opted out of Saturday’s 147th running of the G1 Preakness Stakes, Derby runner-up Epicenter was destined to be favored in the Triple Crown’s middle jewel, to be run over 1 3/16 miles at what is expected to be a steamy Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.

As jockey Joel Rosario said when he jumped off the Not This Time colt after losing by three-quarters of a length to the late-running Rich Strike, “We ran too good to get beat.”

The Steve Asmussen-trained Epicenter was installed the 6-5 morning line favorite in a field of nine 3-year-olds that includes one filly, G1 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath. The Preakness is one of 14 stakes – nine of them graded – to be run at Old Hilltop on Friday and Saturday. with the G2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies the highlight of Friday’s program.

Friday’s 14-race card begins at 11:30 a.m. ET, with the first of Saturday’s 14 races set for 10:30 a.m. Temperatures are expected to soar into the 90s on both days.

Here’s a quick look at all of this weekend’s graded stakes:

Friday
3:05 p.m. – Grade 3 Allaire du Pont Distaff at Pimlico

Gary Sciacca-trained Exotic West is the only filly in the lineup with a last-out win but Super Quick may have been keeping the best company, coming off a third-place effort to last year’s 3-year-old filly champion Malathaat in Keeneland’s G3 Doubledogdare Stakes April 22 for trainer Norm Casse. Before that, Super Quick had a three-race win streak ended in a Fair Grounds allowance race by G1 winner Clairiere.

Jonathan Thomas sent Into Vanishing out against champion older filly or mare Letruska two starts back in Gulfstream’s G3 Royal Delta, and she ran a strong second at odds of 31-1, losing only by three lengths while chasing Letruska throughout.

Allaire du Pont Distaff Entries

4:07 p.m. – Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico

Happy Soul wanted no part of two turns when trainer Wesley Ward tried the Runhappy filly in the G1 Ashland Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland in her last start. She’s back at six furlongs here, a distance at which she excelled in Oaklawn’s Dixie Bell Stakes in February. Under the Stars, a Pioneerof the Nile filly, is the only graded stakes winner in the field, having taken the G2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita when trained by Bob Baffert. She’s with Sean McCarthy now while Baffert is serving a 90-day suspension and like Happy Soul may prefer this trip to the two turns she tried in her last two outs.

Miss Preakness Entries

5:10 p.m. – Grade 3 Pimlico Special at Pimlico

With 11 entries, the G3 Pimlico Special came up big on quantity but light on proven performers, with G3 Dwyer winner First Captain the lone North American graded stakes winner in the field. Trainer Shug McGaughey is stretching out the 4-year-old colt by Curlin after giving him two sprint starts in a Gulfstream allowance and the G1 Carter Handicap, in which he finished a well-beaten seventh.

Fausto Gutierrez-trained Capocostello won multiple G1 races in Panama, but he has yet to break through with a victory in two U.S. starts. He comes off a good second to Fearless in the G3 Ghostzapper Stakes in April and gets hot-riding Flavien Prat for the Pimlico Special.

Todd Pletcher has a strong duo entered, including morning line favorite Vindictive, an Uncle Mo colt who won his 2022 bow going away at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct. The other Pletcher runner, Untreated, narrowly lost the Excelsior Stakes last out and has one of the game’s strongest finishers, Joel Rosario, in the saddle.

Pimlico Special Entries

5:44 p.m. – Grade 2 George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico

Adare Manor appeared headed to the G1 Kentucky Oaks until a narrow loss to Desert Dawn as the odds-on favorite in the G2 Santa Anita Oaks on April 9. The Uncle Mo filly raced for trainer Tim Yakteen in the Santa Anita Oaks, filling in for Bob Baffert during his suspension, and she has since been moved to Sean McCarthy, who is overseeing the majority of the Baffert string. She flashed great talent earlier this year, winning a maiden race by 12 and then romping in the G3 Las Virgenes by 13 lengths going one mile. Like many in the line-up, the nine furlongs of the Black-Eyed Susan will be her longest trip in six starts.

Local hope Luna Belle has steadily improved her Beyer Speed Figures for trainer Hamilton Smith, with her victory in the April 16 Weber City Miss her best yet. The Great Notion filly likes to win, taking six of 11 starts (including her last five), but this will be her toughest test. Brad Cox will send out Interstatedaydream in search of the Classic Empire filly’s  initial stakes win. She comes off a good third to Nest last out in the G1 Ashland at Keeneland after showing the way early.

George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Entries

Saturday

12:16 p.m. – Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Stakes at Pimlico

While there are several stakes veterans in this year’s edition of the Maryland Sprint, favoritism could fall on the lightly raced Disco Pharoah, a Raymond Handal trainee who won his stakes debut in Laurel’s Frank Y. Whiteley last out in only his fourth career start. The American Pharoah gelding preceded that win with a 19 1/2-length victory in an Aqueduct maiden race. Steve Asmussen, who won this race in 2018-’19, sends out Jaxon Traveler, a reliable stakes competitor who has shown an affinity for the Pimlico main track, winning two of three races with one second.

Maryland Sprint Entries

12:51 p.m. – Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico

When there’s a graded stakes for fillies and mares on turf, you usually have to beat trainer Chad Brown, and that’s the case in this year’s Gallorette, a race Brown has won three times. Irish-bred Technical Analysis carries Brown’s hopes and the two-time graded stakes winner will be heavily favored in a field of seven. Graham Motion appears to have the best chance of defeating Technical Analysis with the French-bred Crystal Cliffs, a two-time winner from five U.S. starts and coming off a sharp score at Gulfstream Park in an ungraded stakes April 2.

Gallorette Entries

2:49 p.m. – Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico

Set Piece should benefit from having a race under his belt, finishing seventh but only beaten two lengths in Keeneland’s G1 Maker’s Mark Mile in his 2022 debut April 15. The Brad Cox-trained Dansili gelding was a G2 winner last year and brings a formidable record of nine wins from 19 starts. Mike Maker came loaded to last year’s Preakness weekend stakes and has Atone well spotted in the Dinner Party. Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard for the first time.

Dinner Party Entries

3:31 p.m. – Grade 3 Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico

Steve Asmussen has won this race five times – more than any trainer – and brings a pair to this year’s running. Cogburn, who drew the rail post in a field of nine 3-year-olds, was overhauled late in his stakes debut in Oaklawn’s Bachelor Stakes April 30. Joel Rosario, who rode him two starts back to a four-length allowance victory, will be reunited with the Not This Time colt. Asmussen’s other entry, Chasing Time (also by Not This Time), wanted no part of the 1 1/8-mile distance of the G1 Arkansas Derby last out, but could challenge with the cutback in distance to six furlongs. The morning line favorite is Old Homestead, an Overanalyze colt who has never been headed in three starts for trainer Brett Brinkman. His first two victories came at Delta Downs in Louisiana and last out won the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland. Neither Brinkman nor Old Homestead’s jockey, Thomas Pompell, has ever won a graded stakes.

Chick Lang Entries

5:58 p.m. – Grade 3 Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs

A full field of 14 will run the marathon distance of a mile and a half over the new Churchill Downs turf course and this race is wide open, with Todd Pletcher-trained Shamrocket the 4-1 morning line favorite. This 5-year-old by Tonalist relishes these longer distances and jockey Umberto Rispoli can be very creative in finding the right trip for his mounts. Highest Honors, trained by Chad Brown, began his career as a budding dirt star but had an obvious setback following a sixth-place finish in the 2019 G1 Travers that led to more than 18 months away from the races. He’s raced twice on turf this year and could be competitive here at a price.

Louisville Entries

7:01 p.m. – Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico

It’s hard to find fault with Epicenter, whose only off-the-board finish came in his first start while sprinting at Churchill Downs last September. Since then he’s won four times and finished second twice for trainer Steve Asmussen, most recently when caught  by Rich Strike inside the sixteenth pole of the Kentucky Derby.

Secret Oath was very impressive winning the G1 Kentucky Oaks for trainer D. Wayne Lukas and the filly by Arrogate was competitive against the colts when third with an imperfect trip in the G1 Arkansas Derby before that. Luis Saez will ride with a lot of confidence.

Chad Brown has had six weeks to train Early Voting up to the Preakness after getting overtaken by Mo Donegal late in the G2 Wood Memorial April 9. This Gun Runner colt is fresh and dangerous.

Preakness Entries

The post Weekend Lineup Presented By Del Mar Ship & Win: Preakness The Epicenter Of Attention appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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